The third-ranked and No. 1 seed Bearettes (24-2) captured their 38th straight victory over a district opponent by stopping fourth-seeded Walker Valley (15-14) with a score of 53-36 Saturday afternoon, while the Lady Raiders (18-8), the event’s No. 3 seed, knocked off second-seeded McMinn County (18-8) 50-41.
The Lady Mustangs, which eliminated fifth-seeded Rhea County Friday evening, will tangle with the Lady Cherokees Monday at 6 p.m. for third place in the district.
All four teams advance to the Region 3-AAA Tournament, which tips off on Friday at the home of the higher seeds, meaning Bradley and Cleveland will play at home against either White County or Cumberland County. Meanwhile, Walker Valley and McMinn will hit the road to either Cookeville or Coffee County.
LADY MUSTANGS 36
Less than 20 hours after surviving a “do-or-die” battle with Rhea County, Walker Valley retook the Raider Dome court to face county-rival Bradley Central in Saturday’s district semifinal opener.
Bearette senior Brandi Whitted got her team on the board first with a 3-pointer to start the momentum swinging Bradley’s way as the Black-and-Gold jumped out to a 20-7 advantage by the first buzzer.
“Well, first of all, we came out of the gate strong. I couldn’t ask for a better start. Our plan was to get momentum early,” Bearette head coach Jason Reuter said.
Walker Valley recovered from its slow start to match Bradley’s larger squad almost point for point in the second period, scoring 10 to the Bearette’s 11 points. All but four of the Bearettes points came from free throws in the second period, and they ended the first half solidly in control, 31-17.
“I didn’t think we ever quit. We got in foul trouble in the first half and that hurt us in the second half, but I didn’t think they ever quit playing,” Walker Valley head coach Jessica Stone said of her team.
The Lady Mustangs fought back in the third period, out scoring the Bearettes 9-6 in the third eight-minute span. Jaclyn Griffith and Kathleen Alomar each hit a 3-pointer, adding to their team’s second half momentum.
“We outplayed them in the third quarter. If you don’t put four quarters together it’s hard to win, especially against a team like that,” stated Stone, whose team trailed by just nine points heading into the final frame.
“We just could not bury them when we should’ve buried them, this just isn’t about this game this is about down the road,” Reuter explained.
The Bearettes got their offense back on track in the fourth period, netting 16 more points, while their defense allowed the Lady Mustangs only 10.
“We did what we had to do defensively,” Reuter stated. “This time of year you’ve got to take care of yourself and do what you do the best that you can.”
Walker Valley was able to outshine Bradley Central in 3-pointers, shooting at 50 percent (5-of-10) while their rivals were at 33 percent (4-of-12) for the game. The Bearettes dominated inside, hitting 13-of-27 shots from in front of the arc, while the Lady Mustangs made just 5-of-23.
The 6-foot-2 “Twin Towers” led the way for the Bearettes with Brooke Copeland posting a game-high 16 points, while Rebecca Reuter netted a dozen. Whitted helped out with 11.
Bradley Central won the battle of the boards by a 27-19 margin, while the teams were close in turnovers as Walker Valley had 15 to a dozen for the Bearettes.
Griffith was the only Lady Mustang to score in double figures with 12.
LADY RAIDERS 50,
LADY CHEROKEES 41
The game between Cleveland and McMinn County began on a slower pace than that of its predecessor, as both teams struggled to get points on the board.
By the end of the first period, the Lady Raiders had a two-point lead over the Lady Cherokees, but both scored in single digits for an 8-6 tally.
The second period saw more back-and-forth action as McMinn County was able to tie up the game 17-17 by the end of the first half.
Starting the second half, exactly where they had started the game, dead even, the Lady Raiders posted quite a run in the third quarter, adding 15 points to the scoreboard, while their defense only gave up five points.
“I’m proud of our kids. We kept our composure. The perimeter play was a bit more physical then we’ve seen in a while. We did what we had to do to come out on top,” Cleveland head coach Mindy Kiser said.
The Lady Cherokees came charging back in the fourth period, determined to not let the Lady Raiders come out victorious. Rachel Burke and Haley Ward came up with some big shots, combining to drill five 3-pointers.
“Give [McMinn County] credit, they never stopped and they hit big shots,” Kiser commented.
By the last 25 seconds of the game McMinn County was only trailing Cleveland 46-41.
“We missed a lot of shots down at the end of the game. We were fortunate to escape with a win and get ourselves back [into the championship game],” explained Kiser.
Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad added a pair of free throws with only 18 seconds remaining, plus Jenna Scoggins drilled a shot at the buzzer to give the game it’s final tally.
Abdullah-Muhammad led the Lady Raiders with 14 points, followed by Lincoln Memorial signee Sydnie Anderson with 12.
Cleveland had 29 rebounds and committed 22 turnovers, while McMinn County snatched 23 caroms and 24 miscues.
Both teams were within a percentage point of each other from the field, with the Lady Raiders hitting 18-of-48 (37 percent), while the Lady Cherokees made 16-of-42 (38 percent). The difference came in the distance as McMinn drained 8-of-24 3-pointers and Cleveland made just 2-of-12. Both teams also struggled at the free throw line, the hosts hitting just 12-of-21, while the visitors made only 1-of-3.
LADY MUSTANGS 52
LADY EAGLES 48
Draining 10 3-pointers on the night, Walker Valley brought a close to the best Rhea County girls’ record in years with a strong second-half rally for a four-point victory Friday evening, punching their ticket to the Region 3-AAA Tournament later this week.
Although the Lady Eagles posted their first winning record (19-9) in at least a dozen years, for the ninth straight season their campaign closed in the opening round of the district at the hands of a Bradley County team. Rhea County won’t have to worry about that happening again for at least four years as it moves to District 6-AAA beginning next season.
Having split their two regular season meetings, Coach Shane Johnston’s Lady Eagles came out on fire Friday evening, hitting their first seven shots, including a trio of 3-pointers, as part of a 20-9 run in the game’s opening 5 1/2 minutes.
Walker Valley fought back with a pair of final minute baskets, including a 3-point buzzer beater by Victoria Jones, to trim the difference to six points.
The Lady Mustangs got off just a half dozen shots in the second frame, but two of them were from “distance,” one each from Jaclyn Griffith and Peyton Davis, who had four apiece in the contest.
After seeing the deficit grow increase to double digits (31-21) at the half, Walker Valley coach Jessica Stone told her team to “get back to what we had been working for us the last six or seven games — being patient on offense, blocking out the boards and playing better defense.”
The advice paid off as the Lady Mustangs hit five of their first seven shots in the second half, all of which came from beyond the arc to pull within striking distance of the lead. Walker Valley outscored the girls from Dayton by a 20-9 margin to claim 41-40 edge when the third period horn sounded.
Neither team could take control early in the final frame as they combined for 11 turnovers and just six points in the first four-plus minutes.
After falling behind by a point, the Lady Mustangs made their final push as Jones drilled their 10th 3-pointer with 3:35 left to regain the lead and then added an old-fashioned three-point play with 1:52 on the clock.
Despite making just half of six free throws in the final 69 seconds, Walker Valley was able to limit Rhea to making just one of its final seven shots from the field to hold on for the victory.
The Lady Mustangs had a trio of double figure scorers as Griffith finished with 16 points, while Davis and Jones netted 12 and 11 respectively. Griffith also collected a trio of steals and a pair of assists in the victory, while Lyndsey Macon garnered five points, five thefts and dished out five helps.
“The first half was ugly, but we played better defense in the second half and were a lot more patient on offense,” praised coach Stone.
Walker Valley shot better from “distance” (10-of-16, 58.5 percent) than it did close-in (6-of-13, 46 percent), while the Lady Eagles went 16-for-38 from the field, including just 5-of-16 from beyond the arc. Rhea did hit 84 percent (11-of-13) from the free throw line, while the Lady Mustangs were only 10-of-16.
The Lady Eagles won the battle fo the boards by a 21-13 margin, but also turned the ball over more (20-17).
Rhea’s “Downtown” Julie Brown drilled a trio of “treys” on her way to a game-high 22 points, while Amber Levi netted 10 markers and Whitney Thompson sank a pair of long-range bombs for the Lady Eagles.
Walker Valley 7 10 9 10 — 36
Bradley Central 20 11 6 16 — 53
LADY MUSTANGS (36) — Jaclyn Griffith 12, Peyton Davis 7, Kathleen Alomar 6, Victoria Jones 5, Lyndsey Macon 4, D.J. Mowery 2, Wendi Watson, Rachel Percy.
BEARETTES (53) — Brooke Copeland 16, Rebecca Reuter 12, Brandi Whitted 11, Kayla Withrow 8, Whitney Donaldson 4, Lindsey Davis 2, Baylee Carroll.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 5 (Alomar 2, Davis 2, Griffith); Bradley 4 (Withrow 2, Whitted, Copeland).
Free throws: Walker Valley 9-of-13; Bradley 15-of-20.
Records: Walker Valley 15-14; Bradley Central 24-2.
Cleveland 8 9 15 18 — 50
McMinn County 6 11 5 19 — 41
LADY RAIDERS (50) — Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 14, Sydnie Anderson 12, Nora Berry 7, Shawnia Anderson 7, Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad 6, Hallea McClendon 2, Jenna Scoggins 2, Bre Ware.
LADY CHEROKEES (41) — Rachel Burke 15, Haley Ward 14, Guardiola 8, Dispensa 2, Smith 2, Thompson, Simbeck.
3-point goals: Cleveland 2 (Berry, Sy. Anderson); McMinn 8 (Ward 4, Burke 4).
Free throws: Cleveland 12-of-17; McMinn 1-of-3.
Records: Cleveland 18-8; McMinn County 18-8.
Rhea County 20 11 9 8 — 48
Walker Valley 14 7 20 11 — 52
LADY EAGLES (48) — Julie Brown 22, Amber Levi 10, Thompson 6, Thurman 6, Miles 4, Revis, Loden.
LADY MUSTANGS (52) — Jaclyn Griffith 16, Peyton Davis 12, Victoria Jones 11, Macon 5, Watson 2, Alomar 2, Percy 2, Mowery 2.
3-point goals: Rhea 5 (Brown 3, Thompson2); Walker Valley 10 (Griffith 4, Davis 4, Jones 2).
Free throws: Rhea 11-of-13; Walker Valley 10-of-16.
Records: Rhea County 19-9; Walker Valley 15-13.